WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

CORONAVIRUS by the numbers:

  • BiH: 20,517 confirmed cases, 13,626 recovered, 627 deaths.
  • CROATIA: 10,725 confirmed cases, 7,968 recovered, 191 deaths.
  • KOSOVO: 12,683 confirmed cases, 8,788 recovered, 488 deaths.
  • N. MACEDONIA: 14,600 confirmed cases, 606 deaths.
  • MONTENEGRO: 4,917 confirmed cases, 102 deaths.
  • SERBIA: 31,581 confirmed cases, 571 hospitalized, 716 deaths.
  • SLOVENIA: 2,883 confirmed cases, 133 deaths.

MONTENEGRIN LEADERS TO CONTINUE FOREIGN POLICY: Newly elected leaders in Montenegro will continue the course as a member of NATO, strive for EU integration, and aim for reconciliation.

  • Milan Knezovic, a leader of the Democratic Front, said, “You understand that we as parties were against Montenegro’s NATO membership, but the geopolitical and political reality is such that, by joining NATO via agreements that were signed, there is no possibility of Montenegro leaving NATO, and we shall respect that fact.”
  • Meanwhile, URA’s Dritan Abazovic who holds the four swing MPs in the coalition noted, “We will not back one millimeter away from that principle. Anybody who wants such a country cannot be a partner of our coalition.”
  • And Zdravko Krivapovic focused on reconciliation, “Our first priority is to extend the hand of reconciliation, which we offer to everybody… We offer that all national minority parties, as is the practice, support the winners of the election. Montenegro is deeply divided, and if we do not extend the hand of reconciliation now, we will never extend it.”

SHAMEFUL ACTS IN PLJEVLJA: The building of the Board of the Islamic Community of Pljevlja, Montenegro, was attacked overnight while a cryptic message – “The black bird has flew away, Pljevlja will be Srebrenica” (Polećela crna ptica, Pljevlja biće Srebrenica). The incident was condemned by the election winners in Montenegro with some claiming that Djukanovic had a hand in the action. The new ruling coalition insisted it would protect mosques just as it would protect churches and monasteries. Meanwhile, Bosnian authorities and religious figures have called for the international community to step in to help protect Bosniaks in Montenegro. See photos here.

SERBIAN PM, FM DEFENDS VUCIC: After Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic (whose party just lost in parliamentary elections) claimed Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic played a role in stoking Serb nationalism in Montenegro, Serbia’s PM Ana Brnabic defended President Vucic. She said, “DPS, Djukanovic and some media in Serbia are really drawing a target on Aleksandar Vučić’s head and I can’t help but notice that Djukanovic can’t get out of the 1990s, while we are far from the 1990s and looking to the future.” And added, “If something happens to Aleksandar Vučić, don’t say that no one has anything to do with it.” Serbia’s FM Ivica Dacic echoed PM Brnabic and went a step further by claiming it was Albanian PM Edi Rama who interfered in the election after he came out in support of Djukanovic. Dacic questioned why Djukanovic mentioned the Belgrade-Banja Luka-Podgorica triangle when he should be worried about the Tirana-Pristina-Skopje-Podgorica square of Albanian influence.

U.S. AMB. MEETS LEADERS IN N. MACEDONIA: U.S. Ambassador to N. Macedonia Kate Byrnes yesterday met separately with PM of N. Macedonia Zoran Zaev (see photo below!) and President Stevo Pendarovski. They discussed the Covid-19, NATO, and democratic reforms for N. Macedonia to become an EU member.

KOSOVO DELEGATION IN WASHINGTON: Kosovo’s PM met with Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) CEO Sean Cairncross. Kosovo is a part of the MCC’s Threshold Program with a $49 million grant. Meanwhile, Justice Minister Selim Selimi and FM Meliza Haradinaj-Stublla met with Deputy Assistant AG Bruce Swartz to discuss increased cooperation through Kosovar judges and prosecutors learning from American colleagues.

KOSOVO-SERBIA DIALOGUE:There is anticipation for Kosovo-Serbia White House meeting

  • U.S. NSA Robert O’Brien commented on the meeting in Washington due to take place tomorrow with a possibility of a continuation on Friday. He said, “I look forward to welcoming President of Serbia Aleksandar Vucic and Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti to the White House tomorrow (Sept. 3). These important discussions will advance peace through economic cooperation. Both leaders’ commitment to dialogue will benefit Serbia and Kosovo.”
  • Meanwhile, Vucic and Hoti on September 7 are set to meet in Brussels with Special Representative for the Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue Miroslav Lajcak and the EU’s High Representative Josep Borrell to “address non-majority community arrangements, and the settlement of mutual financial claims/property.” Ahead of the meeting, Lajcak will host an expert-level meeting over the weekend to discuss “topics previously discussed, namely missing and displaced persons and economic cooperation.”
  • Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Eliot Engel (D, NY-16) weighed in on the dialogue. He wrote in a statement, “Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, who is moving his country away from the North Atlantic community and bringing it closer to Russia, opposed putting mutual recognition on the table. In fact, the Serbian delegation stated that the talks would be part of negotiations on economic issues. Although there is nothing wrong with economic growth and economic development, political conflict requires political solutions,” reports RFE/RL. Engel added, “Kosovo deserves a normal future, in which people can travel freely and be close to world democracies, including the United States.”

SERBIAN LEADERS SLAM VON CRAMON: Serbia’s Director for the Office of Kosovo Marko Grujic and Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin sharply criticized MEP and Rapporteur for Kosovo Viola von Cramon after she questioned the European People’s Party support for President Aleksandar Vucic and noted democracy in Serbia has been declining in an interview with EWB on Monday.

  • Djuric said, ‘A tirade of lies of the EP Rapporteur for Kosovo in which she describes Serbia as an unfree country shows a deeply rooted bias and open intolerance of the ‘Kosovar”’lobbyist towards the country and the leadership of Serbia.”
  • He added, “In whose name and in whose interest does Viola von Cramon act? On behalf of those she praises every day as an oasis of democracy, in the name of Pristina, and it is surprising that such open lobbying is tolerated in an institution like the European Parliament.”
  • Meanwhile, Vulin noted, “Publicly fighting for an independent Kosovo under the rule of drug dealers, while simultaneously saying that Serbia is not a democratic state, is not just a lie, it is proof that Serbia is thought of as a prey, and that ‘Shiptar’ lobbyists would like to decide on it in the EU Parliament.”

GEOTHERMAL ENERGY EXPLORATION: “Seven bidders have filed nine bids for geothermal energy exploration in four blocks in Croatia’s northern and eastern areas, the Agency for Hydrocarbons (AZU) said in on Wednesday. The blocks Lunjkovec-Kutnjak, Legrad-1 and Merhatovec are located in northern Croatia, while the Ernestinovo block is in east of the country, altogether covering an area of 207 square km.” (Reuters)

IN OTHER NEWS
OP-ED: “Making the Best of a Challenging New School Year” by the Head of the OSCE in BiH Kathleen KavalecBLOG: “Our Partners Are the People” by EU Ambassador to BiH Johann Sattler

ANALYSIS: “‘No Man’s Land’: Migrants, Refugees Stranded at a Bosnian Roadside” by Danijel Kovacevic in BIRN

ANALYSIS: “Disinformation and anonymous portals in Bosnia” by Aleksandar Brezar in Osservatario Balacni e Caucasco Transeuropa

ANALYSIS: “Return of the displaced persons – Colonization: Taboo topics in the dialogue” by Milica Andric Rakic in KosSev: “Negotiations in Brussels resumed after an 18-month long deadlock. The Kosovan and Serbian delegations discussed the issue of missing persons, internally displaced persons, and the economy. The details of the agreement are not known, however Serbia is announcing that it will investigate three locations Pristina suggested as possible mass grave sites. The issue of the return of displaced persons is marked by a negative campaign in the Kosovo media, while the economy – which Pristina, according to the Serbian delegation, refused to discuss in Brussels – will be discussed in Washington in two days. ‘Serbs are returning to Kosovo’ – reads the title of an article published yesterday by the Pristina-based Gazeta Express, penned by the Kosovo public service broadcaster – RTK with the headline ‘Over 1,500 Serbs are returning to Kosovo in a few weeks’.

CULTURE
: “Popular Old Wives Tales In Croatia” in The Dubrovnik Times

SPORT: “Croatian Football Federation and Croatia Airlines Continue Flying Together” by Daniela Rogulj in Total Croatia News

SPORT: “Roglič and Pogačar secure historic double stage win at Tour” in The Slovenia Times